When shall I cut the leaves of Curcuma and Amorphophallus?
Yesterday we had a few droplets of farewell rain. The end of the rainy season. Time for many insects to aestivate, and many local plants enter a period of dormancy too, such as deciduous trees, gingers, Dendrobium orchids, Gloriosa and Amorphophallus. In contrast, the coming cold and dry season is in fact a good time for the Dokmai Garden damask rose due to absence of hungry insects. Now we simply feed them with bone meal and water, and they will return to their full glory, a reminder of the Haripunchai Kingdom which was here before the Thais.
Many people grow Siamese tulips (Curcuma) in their Chiang Mai monsoon gardens, and some grow the spectacular Amorphophallus. However, being seasonal plants their leaves are turning untidy now. When is the time to cut off the leaves and clean up the flower beds? In resorts they simply get rid of the entire plants and buy new ones next April, but in a home garden where gardening is a passion and each plant a friend, we allow the plants to follow their natural cycles. Like with ordinary tulips, simply allow these plants to withdraw the nutrients from the leaves and store them in their rhizomes, and then remove the leaves when they turn yellow or brown. If you remove the leaves while still green, they lose some nutrients and their blossom next year may be less spectacular. Some people even dig up the rhizomes of Curcuma around Christmas, but they will survive if you let them stay in the ground. The purpose of digging them up is to allow you to re-arrange the flower bed and maybe move some off-spring to new areas. This practice can be allowed for many seasonal plants, also Dioscorea (yam in British English) and many ground orchids.
Text and Photo: Eric Danell